Desserts and sweets

Gypsy arm. Homemade dessert step by step

Gypsy arm. Homemade dessert step by step


  • Half
  • 45 minutes
  • For 6 people
  • 1.2 € / person

How to prepare gypsy arm . This is one of the homemade dessert recipes I have grown up with at home. In many celebrations with the whole family at the table, my mother Rosa or my grandmother Lucrecia, prepared a delicious gypsy arm for dessert.

It does not take long to make it, although later we will have to let it cool for several hours before tasting it. It is a traditional and very typical dessert in all corners of Spain. But this elaboration of stuffed sponge cake can be found in all corners of the world.

In Argentina it is known as ” rolled or pionono “, ” pão-de-ló ” in Brazil, ” queen’s arm ” in Chile, in the Philippines ” Mercedes arm “, in France ” gâteau roulé “, ” swiss roll ” in Kingdom United and USA, and ” wrapped child ” in Mexico.

As for its origin , there are several versions about it. One of them is based on the boilermakers, mostly gypsies, who were dedicated to fixing iron utensils (pots, pots, cauldrons, etc.) and who received these rolled biscuits, as payment for their boilermaking services. Similar to this, it is said that the name may come from the fact that the sponge cake resembles by shape and color the arm of a person of gypsy ethnicity. In addition, its decoration would refer to the large amount of jewelry that these people used to wear.

Another very widespread story is the one that tells that a Bercian monk  (El Bierzo, León), who traveled the world in medieval times, discovered this type of dessert in an Egyptian monastery and brought it to Spain, where it was called ” Egyptian arm ” From here, the name changed over time to the current gypsy arm .

Preparation of the pastry cream. Gypsy arm padding

  1. We are going to start by making the pastry cream from the filling, so you can have time to cool down and get consistency while we bake the cake.
  2. We wash the lemon and peel half of its skin, taking care that it does not have a white part inside, since it gives us bitterness. Of the half liter of milk, we reserve a little less than a glass (150 ml.). We put the rest to heat in a saucepan, until it is about to boil.
  3. Remove from the heat, and add the cinnamon stick and the skin of the lemon. We let it cool and infuse the milk, for 10-15 minutes. We will give a pleasant flavor to the pastry cream.
  4. In the reserved glass of milk, add the cornstarch and stir well, using a few rods or a fork. We want it to dissolve completely and have no lumps.
  5. In a bowl, separate the yolks from the whites, and reserve them for the final decoration. Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat until it foams. Now we pour the glass of milk with the cornmeal, and mix well with the rods, without lumps.
  6. The milk that was infusing, we strained it and we went to a saucepan (it would be worth the same from the beginning). We heat over medium heat, and as soon as it reaches temperature, we add the mixture little by little, stirring without stopping. We will see how it will take “body” and thicken. It is important that it never boil, so that we do not pass point. We reserve and let cool, so that it acquires the final texture.

Preparation of the cake for the gypsy arm

  1. Of the 4 eggs, we separate the yolks from the whites. We mount the whites with some metal rods, with a pinch of salt.
  2. Better if you use an electric device with the rod utensil, otherwise you will leave your arm in it. Once at its point, well fluffy, we are adding the beaten yolks. Mix until you get a homogeneous cream.
  3. Now it is the turn of the sugar, which we are gradually adding to the bowl, while we beat.
  4. Mix the yeast with the flour and add to the cream, without stopping mixing. We will get a homogeneous cream and without lumps.
  5. We preheat oven at 180º C for 5 minutes. We line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (parchment paper).
  6. Pour the cream over it and bake for 10-12 minutes in the central position, with top-down heat.

Baking the Genoese sponge cake for the gypsy arm

  1. Each oven is a “world” so after time, prick the cake with a toothpick and if it comes out dry and without difficulty, it is ready. If not, give it a little more time.
  2. It can also be more or less golden, it is normal. We want us to have a cake that is not very fat, so that it is easy to roll up later.
  3. Remove from the oven and cover with a clean cloth.
  4. We allow it to temper, and then we turn the tray over to remove it from the mold. To make us a perfect rectangle, we cut the corners of the cake with a knife.
  5. With the help of the rag, we roll up the cake, so that it takes the shape. So leave covered and rolled, until cool.
  6. Unroll, fill with the pastry cream, spreading it evenly over the entire surface, and carefully roll again until you get a perfect curl.
  7. The part of the ends we make that results in the lower part of the cake, so that it has a good presentation.
  8. We put the rolled cake in the refrigerator to cool and take texture, so that the cream compacts.
  9. For a good consistency, I recommend that it is at least 2 hours in the fridge. Although at home we always do it “eve”, the day before.

I leave you an explanatory video where I explain step by step how to mount the whites to the point of snow

Assembly and final decoration of the gypsy arm

  1. It is preferable to decorate the gypsy arm a few minutes before serving it on the table, so the meringue will be freshly made and will not lose texture. The whites that we had reserved, that we had left over from the cake, we assembled them with the rods, adding a pinch of salt and 50 gr. of sugar. It will be a fluffy meringue.
  2. We pass it to a pastry bag (either fabric or plastic) and decorate the top of the cake to our liking. You could also add some candied fruit.

I encourage you to prepare it at home, and you will see what a delight for dessert, as well as surely bringing you very good childhood memories.

Tips, trivia and recommendations to prepare a fluffy gypsy arm

  • Be that as it may, we can say that it is a dessert already widespread throughout Spain. In Galicia it is more frequent to fill it with pastry cream , but you can also bring cream as in Madrid pastry shops. 
  • A chocolate or dulce de leche cream can also serve as a filling, even with variations like the ones we have on the blog, an example is the gypsy arm in the tiramisu style . It will be delicious with any of them.
  • For the final decoration, at the top, a typical meringue is used. To make the cake in the oven, in many houses there are already some “cans” or special metal molds for it, although we can do it perfectly on the oven tray, as in my case.

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